(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): I am serving notice on the Barisan Nasional MPs that they have to be more diligent and responsible in Parliament or they would have to explain to the people why with over 170 MPs, they could not muster a quorum of 26 in Parliament.
Yesterday, the Dewan Rakyat again had to be adjourned temporarily for lack of a quorum at 7.45 p.m. when there were only nine MPs in the House during the debate on the allocations for the Ministry of Rural Development. Of the nine MPs in the House, three were from the DAP!
Although the DAP had only nine MPs, the three DAP MPs in the Dewan Rakyat last night represented some 33 per cent of our parliamentary representation. The Barisan Nasional, with some 170 MPs, had only six MPs in the chamber, which was only some 3.5 per cent of its parliamentary representation.
The Barisan Nasional MPs owe the nation and people a full and proper explanation as to why they could not muster a quorum of 26 MPs in Parliament after winning a landslide victory in the 1995 general elections.
They should also explain why there were only 3.5 per cent of Barisan Nasional MPs in the Dewan Rakyat last night, and what has happened to the 96.5 per cent of the Barisan Nasional MPs?
It is clear that the bad examples set by some Cabinet Ministers, particularly MCA Ministers who are infamous for not attending Parliament or answering questions or speeches in Parliament, have infected many Barisan Nasional MPs.
Barisan Nasional MPs, despite their huge majority, have shown scant interest in raising the people's problems and grievances in Parliament. This was why debate on the Ministry of Rural Development, which was slated for a full-day debate today, was dismissed in a matter of one-and-a-half hours last night - for lack of interest in the Ministry's allocations by Barisan Nasional MPs.
Only eight MPs spoke in the debate on the 1998 budget allocation for the Ministry of Rural Development, and three of them were from the DAP, namely the MP for Bintulu, Chiu Chin Sing, the MP for Teluk Intan, S. Kulasegaran and myself.
I spoke on the problem of poverty eradication, criticising the Barisan Nasional Government for its failure to honour its 1994 Sabah state general elections manifesto which gave a solemn pledge to place poverty eradication on the top priority agenda so that poverty would be completely eliminated by the year 2,000; the need for a government plan to provide all 1,200 rural schools currently without electricity supply with power by the year 2,000 so that children in rural schools could enjoy the latest Information Technology facilities as in the urban schools; and the proposal that the Ministry of Rural Development establish a special department to popularise Information Technology in the rural areas so that there would not be a new disparity between IT-rich and IT-poor among Malaysians based on the urban-rural divide.
I could have spoken on for another 30 minutes to highlight the problems of Malaysians in the rural areas, whether Malays, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli, Chinese or Indians, but the 10-minute limit for MPs in the budget debate during the committee stage had denied the rural people from having their voices and grievances articulated and heard in Parliament.
The 10-minute rule limiting MPs to 10 minutes in the budget debate during the committee stage is a most unfair, undemocratic and even unparliamentary rule, making Parliament a mockery by turning it into a 10-minute Parliament.
The 10-minute rule should be scrapped immediately, and Barisan Nasional MPs should also show greater responsibility and diligence not only in attending Parliament but also in speaking up in Parliament so that the problems, needs and grievances of the people could be given proper attention in Parliament.
My advice to Barisan Nasional MPs is that if they have no intention to perform their most rudimentary duties as Members of Parliament as in attending Parliament, then they should not have stood for election on the Barisan Nasional ticket in the first place - and the honourable thing for them to do is to resign so that MPs who are more conscientious could be elected in their place to attend and represent the people's interests in Parliament.